Work is hard. My mom used to say, ‘that’s why they call it work’, and I used to hate the idea. ‘I wasn’t born to work’, I used to tell myself. I was meant for something bigger, greater! As it turns out, putting in an honest days work pays off more than what you ever literally cash in. I know that’s hard to consider if the financial ends aren’t meeting. But, since the alternatives to having a job are not desirable, we owe it to our greatest resource, time, to figure out just how we can, as individuals, make the most of our time when we are at work. That endeavor will reap ample benefits, of that I am certain.
I have been a business owner since 2011. Now before you get bored listening to a business owner lecture you about work ethic, know this: you will never regret putting in a good effort. I promise you this. People get paid different sums, of course that’s true. But, what they take home can in itself be summed up in their composite satisfaction as it pertains to their work ethic. And there we have it. There is value in work ethic, value that has more worth than anyone can put a number on. I have no idea how to pay my employees what they are truly worth. As a matter of fact I’d love to make them rich more than I want to be rich myself (I’m not). I can only hope that the prices I set, and the margins we generate, are ample enough for them to afford the lifestyles they have. Their happiness is completely up to them. My obligation is solely in our price/margin/wage structure, and the hope that market holds it all. The rest of it is completely out of my hands.
To delve into the concept we have to consider what I like to call ‘the happiness variable’. There have been celebrity suicides, and then there are folks pinching pennies who are as happy as clams. That’s quite the dynamic. I’m sure most folks think more money would fix just about any problem they have. While that might be true in some cases, introduce the happiness variable, and things get a little more complicated. But, that’s not a bad thing. The easiest path to happiness, then, becomes happiness at work. But, how do we get there? That’s the hard part. I’ve had jobs I hate, same as you. I left them, which was convenient enough for me at the time. Things worked out. But, before you go quitting your job…
Let’s talk about markets. That’s an obscure term and when economists say the word ‘markets’ a lot of folks stop listening. Assuming I have your attention at this point, let’s talk markets. It’s worth noting that you are elbows deep in several different markets both as a consumer and a worker. Everyone is. Quite simply, to talk about markets is to talk about commerce. It’s the exchanging of goods and services for money. We all do it all the time. You could drill it down to consumption. As consumers we require things. Things that themselves require production. I know this seem rudimentary, but stay with me. In order for us to ‘have nice things’, those things must be produced. Unless you like making your own tables and chairs, you have to buy them from people who make and sell tables and chairs. Pretty simple.
But there is a poetry going on in this exchange that evades most folks. The poetry is in the price. Consider this: It is the buyer that decides the price of any good or service, not the seller as most people think. My dad used to have a record collection. He would talk about how much it might be worth. Then my mom would say, “Something is only worth what someone is willing to give you for it”. Truer words have never been spoken. Here’s the tie-in: If you are unhappy with how much you get paid, you have to generate more value for what it is you are selling. As an employee, what you are selling is your time, and you’re selling it to you boss. And, as we just learned, as the buyer, your boss sets the price because he or she can choose not to purchase your time. Now, we are getting somewhere.
We are quite literally talking about valuation of time. More specifically, your time. There’s no substitute for it, you’re running out of it, and they haven’t figured out how to make more of it. So let’s figure out how to get more value out of your time. No one is gonna pay you for watching tv, so forget about your free time. Therefore we have to focus on your work time. You have only a small number of choices. Find a job if you don’t have one, find a new one if you don’t like the one you have, or make the most of the one you do have. No matter the path you take, your actual job becomes selling your time. It’s persuading someone to give you money for it (or more money for it). That is the real market place if you boil it all down. We’re all just buying and selling each other’s time. Let that marinate for a while. I think considering this notion will benefit anyone looking to get work, or squeeze more out of the work they currently have.